Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Looking Back While Looking Forward

By Michael Block

Kids these days. At my age, I look at the title of this cabaret and I want to slap the star in the face. A retrospective at 25? It surely is premature! But if you take take it as the great hook that it is, 25! A Premature Retrospective is a celebration of a young man with a bright future. Taking center stage of The Metropolitan Room, Blake Zolfo is the star of tomorrow you need to see today.
photo by Michael Block
Blake Zolfo brings a scattering of music that commemorates his life as he takes a look at his first 25 years. Allowing the songs speak for his story, Zolfo provides quick anecdotes about some of his life highlights that lead into the accompanying song. He could easily relish the moment and give more time to the tales. It is his time in the spotlight. Nevertheless, his story is reminiscent of many hopeful millennial artists but his trajectory is unique. Having recently appeared in Kid Victory at the Vineyard Theatre, in a role that gained him a 2017 Chita Rivera Award nomination, Zolfo nippily honors the moment with a reprise of the song that got him the accolade. The rest of the night brings songs about the abundance of jobs, keeping up hope, sagas of love and longing, and what the future may bring. With a cycle of songs from pop to showtunes, Zolfo’s voice easily transcends style. Zolfo has an effortlessly sweet tenderness in his tone. The night may have only been about an hour, but you could easily listen to him for hours on end. Zolfo is grounded in performance. When he is in between songs, sharing his tales or riffing off his stagemate Steve Schalchlin, Zolfo lights up, exhibiting his affable personality. His charming persona brings you in, leaving you eager for the next round. While he may be at the center, this night was brought to life with the aid of director Andy Gale and music director, and owner of half the night’s content, Steve Schalchlin. Gale helped shape a strong narrative for Zolfo, mixing the style and genre content well. Bringing in some song mashups as well, including Andy Grammars "Keep Your Head Up" paired with "Up on the Roof" by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, gave the night a unique flair. Schalchlin’s music has a nostalgic essence that was ripe for Zolfo’s voice that easily brought it into today’s sound. They are a dynamic pair.
To have equal parts peppy charisma and honest humility that pair so well together is rare. Blake Zolfo has it. Fret not if you missed 25! A Premature Retrospective. You still have one more chance.